Here's a quick preview of the Prairie Stars' 2017 season.
UIS is coming off a 24-26 season last year. The Stars tied for eighth in the conference and missed receiving a spot in the GLVC tournament via a tiebreaker.
On the roster, Guthrie has added power to the lineup by bringing in sophomore first baseman/outfielder Morgan Edwards, junior utility player Makayla Walsh, junior pitcher/third baseman Ali Haesele.
In the polls
The Stars were voted to finish eighth out of 16 teams in the GLVC preseason coaches poll released in January.
Being aggressive on the bases is a priority for the University of Illinois Springfield softball team, resulting in the Prairie Stars being ranked first in stolen bases in the Great Lakes Valley Conference the past two seasons.
They racked up 78 stolen bases in 93 attempts in 2016.
Sophomore infielder Haley Inman, who stole 21 bases, and senior catcher/outfielder Amanda Gosbeth, who had 19, return for the Stars.
"We have some big power hitters, but we also have some kids that we recruited just because of their speed," UIS softball coach Shannon Nicholson Guthrie said.
The Stars lost 115 hits, 18 home runs and 46 runs due to graduation loss, but Guthrie is confident they can make up for it.
"We have more left-handed batters so I think our hitting will be a little bit more dynamic," she said. "I think that'll really help our offense."
University of Illinois Springfield sophomore outfielder Madi Torry, a graduate of Glenwood High School, is one of only two returning softball players who appeared in all 50 games last year. Torry led the team in at-bats and hit .250 and stole 12 bases.
The senior second baseman and Chatham Glenwood High School graduate, BriAnna Edgar, is No. 3 on the team. "I'm always the person that has a smile on their face. I like to keep my teammates up and positive."
Sophomore pitcher, Jaycee Craver was named Great Lakes Valley Conference Pitcher of the Week several days before the 2016 season ended. Craver finished 10th in the conference in strikeouts with 121 in 164 innings. "You go from high school where it's just get strikeout after strikeout to this level where you have to realize you have to let your defense do work, and you have to trust your defense. The trust in team got a lot better because I realized I didn't have to do all the work."
This story appeared in The State Journal-Register on February 25, 2017.
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